On #diyPD

Twitter has been an interesting ecosystem of #diyPD. Most, if not all, of the teachers present are looking for opportunities for professional growth and connection. But lately, I’ve noticed some push-back in discussions.

When someone talks about being inspired to do better, others say they are already maxed out.

When someone says they want to better model reading, others say they are too buried for personal reading.

When someone expresses excitement about some flexible seating they received through a grant, others say they’ll wait for higher-ups to fund it because who has time for grant-writing!

When someone asserts that they are not helpless and they can be the change, others say we must stop trying to depend on teachers to save society.

When someone talks about working to improve relationships and model learning, others say teaching should not be this hard: we teach content, students work on assignments, we grade.

And honestly, as much as we’d all like to focus on the positive that inspires, it’s important to acknowledge that there are legitimate concerns to be reckoned with across the spectrum here. Particularly when it comes to the concept of what it means to be a professional.

After all, it’s easy to say something like, “If we want to be treated like professionals, we have to act like professionals.” But if teachers are not given the support they really need, the expectations for going the extra mile should be zero.

It really becomes a “chicken and the egg” debate. Does showing initiative help others value teachers as professionals, or does valuing teachers as professionals cause them to take initiative? I’ve seen Twitter threads where teachers mourn for lost opportunities for them to take professional development into their own hands (like Edcamps), and I’ve seen threads where administrators mourn for the fact that none of the teachers will take advantage of the various professional development opportunities available.

For teachers who feel maxed out by unrealistic expectations, (especially the “cult of the superteacher” variety), maybe the diyPD needs to focus on self care. For instance, they might:

For teachers who are feeling inspired to shake up the status quo, maybe the diyPD needs to focus on building community. They might:

It’s likely that for all of us, our needs and capacity will shift over time. Sometimes, we will need to focus more on self-care, and sometimes we will need a challenge. Often, it’s a blend of the two. Sometimes, challenging the status quo will even be necessary for teachers to feel more confident with self-care (& vice versa!).

Whatever the case, we should be mindful about what’s doable for our ever-shifting personal circumstances. Say no to keep those boundaries maintained, and also be intentional about our yes’es to help us grow and to better reach our students.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

In Which the 8 Year-Old Questions My Reading Log Ethics #TeacherMom

Pernille Ripp’s recent revisit on reading logs reminded me about a conversation I recently had with my 8 year-old. She watched me sign the reading log like I always do: scribbling 20 minutes for each day all at once and adding my signature.

Her: “Is that cheating?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Her: “Like, we don’t write down exactly how many minutes I read each day.”

Me: “No, it’s not cheating. You read at least this much every week.”

This was the end of my rushed explanation that morning, but I knew it wouldn’t satisfy her for long. Sure enough, the next time I went to sign, she inquired again. This time, I turned it back to her:

Me: “Right now, you love to read. We read during breakfast, at bedtime, and lots in between. How do you think it would effect how you feel about reading if we were always tracking every minute you read? If I was always asking whether you’d gotten up to 20 yet? If I was always telling you to set a timer and write it down?”

Her: “I don’t think I would enjoy that. I just want to read!”

She just wants to read. And don’t want to get in the way of that!

We further discussed how in the rare event that she does read fewer than 20 minutes in a day, it is not worth discouraging her overall love of reading. She now understands that my scribbled 20 minutes a day actually is, in fact, about maximizing her reading — both the quantity and the quality of her time spent.

At this point, some teachers might be thinking, “Well, that works fine if they actually read. What if they don’t?” To this, I would definitely recommend reading Pernille’s post to which I linked at the top — she has a great list of accountability strategies that help her know whether her kids are reading.

I myself used to think that reading logs were a great way to remind kids to read at home. Now I know that they can create obstacles that stand in the way of reading itself. I’m grateful for the lesson, and hope it will help me more thoroughly assess future strategies.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into SDG’s: Responsible Consumption & Production

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. For more, click here

The concept of responsible consumption and production especially weighs on my mind this time of year as the holiday season approaches. Kath Murdoch recently shared an excellent post by George Monbiot that you may have seen since it was published in 2012. If not, be sure to check it out! One line that stood out to me in particular:

“…very rich people in Vietnam are now sprinkling ground rhino horn on their food or snorting it like cocaine to display their wealth. It’s grotesque, but it scarcely differs from what almost everyone in industrialised nations is doing: trashing the living world through pointless consumption.”

How might sharing this provocation spark more thoughtful consumption & production for our students? Use these resources to find out!

Resource #1: PYP Exhibition Staging from Sam Sherratt’s class: “Keep it simple, clear, and environmentally responsible. “

Resource #2: Lego artwork by Nathan Sawaya (Pop art series & Metamorphosis series)

by Nathan Sawaya

Resource #3: Sustainable Brands 2018 from Nice and Simple

Resource #4: The Most Sustainable Jeans by Parallel Studio

Resource #5: Sustainable Furniture by People for Smarter Cities

Resource #6: The Lorax by Dr. Suess

Provocation Questions:

  • What is production?
  • What is consumption?
  • What makes production or consumption sustainable?
  • What is our responsibility to produce and consume in a sustainable manner?
  • How does sustainable production/consumption compare with unsustainable production/consumption?
  • How does being responsible consumers help us better connect as human beings?

Reorganized Pages for Easier Navigation!

2 years ago, I came up with a blog posting topic schedule that consisted of 3 main categories of inquiry, TeacherMom, and Learning through Reflecting posts.

I wrote:

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about making this kind of commitment. I know there will be days or even weeks where it just doesn’t happen. But since I want to continue to model important learner qualities to my students (current small ones and future bigger ones), I refuse to let fear of failure keep me from taking a chance that might help me grow and improve.”

I am so glad I took that chance–it has been an incredible experience for me to push myself to curate resources, notice connections, and reflect as a professional. I feel certain that if I did not set up these goals for myself, my personal professional learning would fall by the wayside in these years while I’m away from the classroom.

Now, as these posts have accumulated, I realize it’s getting a little cumbersome for readers (or even myself) to revisit older posts. So I’m pleased to announce that the pages for each of the 3 categories have been reorganized, with posts grouped by sub-concepts on each page. I would love feedback–what is easier about these pages? What would make navigation even simpler?

Inquiry Posts

#TeacherMom Posts

Learning through Reflecting Posts

Thank you so much to all those who have encouraged me over these years of blogging!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

What the computer assessment doesn’t know about what my preschooler knows #TeacherMom

Turns out my son loves the online preschool we signed up for this year. And I’m glad. Not out of relief that I don’t have to coax him (I was definitely prepared to drop it in a heartbeat before I ever used one of those motivational badges they mail out). But because it’s simply a pleasure to watch him enjoy learning.

He loves the the dancing letters, the rhymes, the songs.

But there is one thing that he does not enjoy: the tests. In fact, I recently watched him go through a brief alphabet assessment, clicking the bottom right choice for every single letter.

The program seems unable to detect the growth I perceive. After all, its assessment does not know…

…that he loves to practice making letters with his body.

…that he walks around sounding out the phonemes for various objects around the house.

…that he often turns his toys into letters or numbers and eagerly shows them to me.

…that he is actually starting to read (he seems to know the sounds letters make better than the names of the letters themselves).

So no matter how slowly the charts might curve upward on his data reports, I know the truth that more is happening than is being measured.

The fact remains that tests simply can’t pick up on growth indicators that trained humans can. We must be careful not to place too much weight (and certainly not too much anxiety regarding our kids’ growth) in what those computers “know.” Focus instead on emphasizing the learning you observe!

Inquiry into SDGs: Sustainable Cities & Communities

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. For more, click here

I am astonished by some of the figures associated with this global goal. Right now, 3.5 billion people live in cities, which is half of our global population. By 2050, that figure is expected to reach 6.5 billion, which would be 2/3 of our population. It is clearly a pressing need to consider how we can design our urban spaces in more sustainable ways.

This week’s provocations are meant to help students consider what it means for a city to be sustainable.

Resource #1: Bicycle Rush Hour via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: What is Public Life? by Gehl Institute

Resource #3: A Taste of Vienna by Film Spektakel

Resource #4: Gentrification by Word of the Day

Resource #5: “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton

Provocation Questions: 

  • What makes a city pleasant to live in?
  • What makes a city pleasant to move around in?
  • What do you notice about cities that are pleasant to walk or ride bikes around?
  • What does it mean for something to be be sustainable?
  • What is the connection between a pleasant city and a sustainable one?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

10 Books of Wishes

For kids, wishes hold power. So much of life seems beyond their control: where they live, what they wear, who they meet. Among so much uncertainty, it’s a comforting hope to hold tight to a wish.

In Matt de la Peña & Christian Robinson’s latest picture book, “Carmela Full of Wishes,” Carmela doesn’t realize just how many important wishes she holds in her heart until she finds a dandelion. 

There are so many elements in this read that I found lovely. The details of Carmela’s neighborhood. The papel picado, Mexican folk art, that beautifully illustrates her wishes. The jingling bracelets that capture the essence of childhood joy (that can’t be diminished even by an irritable — and likely care-worn — brother). The way that it keeps readers wondering about Carmela’s wish and her life.

Also, I just have to share this gorgeous case design beneath the dust jacket!

I asked my kids if they could remember whose style it was, and they knew it was the same illustrator that created the video, “What is Music,” that they love so much (Funny coincidence: I included both Matt de la Peña & Christian Robinson in my summer post, “18 Best Videos to Get to Know Children’s Authors & Illustrators”).

For your readers that are full of wishes, here are 9 other books of wishes I’d recommend!

#2: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

#3: When’s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano & Christian Robinson

#4: I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

#5: We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen (I’m starting to wonder how this book somehow manages to get on just about every one of my lists…I regret nothing.)

#6: The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller & Frank Morrison

#7: It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton 

#8: Mr. Rabbit & the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow & Maruice Sendak

#9: Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales

#10: Pigeon Books by Mo Willems

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto